Daily Fantasy Strategy – Know Your Site: Pitching Edition

Who else is excited for the start of baseball season?
Who else is excited for the start of FANTASY baseball season?
Who else is excited for the start of DAILY FANTASY baseball season?

If you answered yes to all three questions, you have come to the right place.  And if you are looking to try out daily fantasy for the first time, or you struggled while playing daily fantasy last year, Mr. DFS is here to help.  While I am no DFS professional and do not pretend that I make millions playing this game, I have managed to grind out a profit playing many daily fantasy sports games while keeping it fun.

Over the next little while, I am going to share some tricks of daily fantasy to make sure that the games are fun, you are successful and you are strategically managing your daily fantasy bank account.  Today I am going to start with a simple concept – Know Your Site!

A common mistake that both daily and yearly fantasy league players make is not fully understanding their league’s scoring system.  If I am in a points based season-long league, I may punt categories like saves and stolen bases, because I don’t care how I accumulate my points, only that I am accumulating points.  If, however, I am in a rotisserie style league, I need a more balanced team to make sure that I don’t finish in last place in any categories.  The same concept holds true in daily fantasy.  Today I am going to focus on the differing values of pitchers on three different daily fantasy sites.

Let’s quickly look at the structure of three daily fantasy sites – DraftKings, FanDuel and FantasyAces – as they relate to pitchers:

Category DraftKings FanDuel Fantasy Aces
Salary Cap $50,000 $35,000 $55,000 Bonus for being under cap
Roster 2 Pitchers 1 Pitcher 2 Pitchers
IP 2.25 pts 3 pts 1.5 pts
K 2 pts 3 pts 1 pt
W 4 pts 12 pts 3 pts
ER -2 pts -3 pts -1 pt
HA -0.6 pts 0 pts -0.25 pts
BBA -0.6 pts 0 pts -0.25 pts
CG 2.5 pts 0 pts 0 pts
SO 2.5 pts 0 pts 0 pts
No-Hitter 5 pts 0 pts 0 pts

The first major difference to note with respect to pitchers is quite obvious.  DraftKings and Fantasy Aces require two pitchers while FanDuel requires only one.  This means that you essentially have no chance of cashing in a FanDuel tournament  without nailing your pitcher selection.  With DraftKings and Fantasy Aces if you have one good pitcher and one decent pitcher, you are usually still in good shape.

Even more subtly, let’s take a look at how each site rewards pitchers.  On FanDuel, a win is worth 4 times the amount of points that an inning pitched is worth, while it is 2 times value on Fantasy Aces and only 1.78 times value on DraftKings.  Also importantly, FanDuel does not penalize a pitcher for allowing base runners – only for allowing earned runs, while Fantasy Aces and DraftKings have WHIP components to their scoring.

Let’s look at two real life examples from last year to get an idea of how this might play out practically.  On June 17, Madison Bumgarner and the Giants traveled to Seattle to take on the offensively inept Mariners, however, the Mariners had Felix Hernandez toeing the bump that day.  Using our knowledge of how each site rewards wins, I would have been wary to take MadBum on FanDuel that day because a win is a difficult proposition against a fellow ace and wins are extremely valuable on FanDuel.  However, on DraftKings the win is much less important, so MadBum was certainly a viable pitcher to select.  On Fantasy Aces, which gives you bonus points for staying under the salary cap, I would have tried to use a lower cost pitcher than MadBum in this tough pitching matchup.

The very next day, Colin McHugh and the 39-28 Astros, on a 5 game winning streak, faced the 28-37 Colorado Rockies on a 4 game losing streak with the game taking place in Coors.  On DraftKings I would stay away from this match-up because even if McHugh got the win, his likely high WHIP from playing at Coors would not be worth the 4 points for the win.  However, on FanDuel, this might make for a great contrarian play in GPP. Most people would stay away from this matchup because McHugh is at Coors, but with good strikeout and win potential, it looks like a good game to target.  On Fantasy Aces, this is a middling play – on one hand McHugh and his probable high WHIP could hurt you, but on the other hand his price and ownership is likely depressed by the Coors effect and he has a good shot at a win.

If you look at the results from those two days, these matchups played out essentially like we would have expected.  Bumgarner pitched a great game, but he did not get the win as King Felix was a bit better.  McHugh had a 1.50 WHIP in his game and pitched in and out of trouble, but he got the win as the Astros took down the Rockies.  Their lines were as follows:

  • Bumgarner: 8 IP – 4 H – 1 BB – 2 ER – 9 K – CG
  • McHugh: 6 IP – 4 H – 5 BB – 3 ER – 8 K – W

Here is how they fared on each site

Pitcher DraftKings FanDuel Fantasy Aces
Bumgarner 31.5 pts 45 pts 17.75 pts.
McHugh 22.1 pts 45 pts 14.75 pts

McHugh was likely several thousand dollars cheaper on FanDuel than Bumgarner and his ownership percentages were also likely quite a bit lower.  Thus, on FanDuel, he was clearly the better play.  On DraftKings, Bumgarner scored 50% more points than McHugh, which was aided by the complete game bonus rewarded by DraftKings and this likely more than offset the salary difference, making Bumgarner the probable better play.  On Fantasy Aces, Bumgarner scored about 25% more points than McHugh, but with McHugh’s probable low salary and low ownership percentage, they are about equivalent players.  In fact, given the bonus that Fantasy Aces gives to players staying under the salary cap, McHugh was likely the slightly better play.

In sum, there is more to think of when constructing a daily fantasy lineup than just trying to determine if the pitcher will generally be successful.  On FanDuel, you are behind the 8-ball if your pitcher does not get a win, so look at Las Vegas lines and team matchups before selecting your pitcher.  On DraftKings, a win is nice, but you would rather have a pitcher who throws a bunch of innings with a low WHIP and high strikeouts than a pitcher who is just likely to get a win with bad peripherals.  On Fantasy Aces, you benefit from staying under the salary cap, so looking at low cost pitchers with good matchups is the way to go, while still factoring in WHIP elements.

As you can see, before depositing money in any daily fantasy site, you have to know the site’s scoring rules.  And if you want to have success in GPPs or even in cash games, you have to master your site’s scoring rules.

Stay tuned for my next piece which will analyze differences in hitter scoring.


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Written by 

Neil has been an avid fantasy sports player since 1991 and a profitable low stakes DFS grinder since 2014. Neil is ranked in the top 20% of DFS players in 3 sports and in the top 10% of DFS players for his stakes per RotoGrinders rankings. As a native Montrealer Neil hopes to get a Major League Baseball team back to his hometown some day soon.

2 thoughts on “Daily Fantasy Strategy – Know Your Site: Pitching Edition”

  1. Great write up. Keep up the helpful work and I will be a fan of yours for a long time.

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